Why Moving Sucks, Even When It's Great

Photographed by Amy Lombard.
In theory, I'm really excited about my upcoming move. For one thing, I'm finally moving into a studio, and though it's the size of a closet, I'll have my own space. That's basically a wet dream in New York City, where we're all stacked on top of each other.
But, even though I've already gotten through the NYC real estate hunger games, the thought of moving makes me shut down to the point of feeling dead inside. Maybe I should be psyched, but I guess this is what everyone means when they say that moving is one of the most stressful things you can go through, along with losing a loved one and going through a divorce.
It might be my bias speaking here, but moving in this city (or anywhere else) really is a special form of hell. Marni Amsellem, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Smart Health Psychology, says that even though moving can be exciting, exciting things are often fraught with stress.
"Anytime we’re facing change, that is inherently stressful," she says.
When you're going through a life change, it's a disruption that causes uncertainty, and uncertainty causes anxiety and stress. Even though you may have a general sense of what's going to happen when you move, your life is definitely going to change in ways that you might not anticipate. And, even before the actual relocation, moving involves a lot of factors that can stress people out: packing, paperwork, planning, organization, and money.
"No matter what, your life will change on some level, unless you’re moving one floor up or down from where you’re currently living now," Dr. Amsellem says. "Your morning routine will change, even if it's just that you normally wake up with the sun shining in your bedroom and now you don't."
Plus, planning to move often messes with your normal routine. For instance, you may have an established morning regimen, but it probably doesn't involve researching moving companies or making a packing list. And during the day, you might be forced to use time at work to make all these plans, if, say, a broker will only show you your dream apartment between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday.
"You might spend a whole workday getting estimates from moving companies and that means you're not doing work," Dr. Amsellem says.

Anytime we’re facing change, that is inherently stressful.

Marni Amsellem, PhD
In other words, your productivity might be going down, or you might need time off just to move, but either way, moving can seriously mess with your entire life. Think about it: Anytime something happens to mess with your routine, whether a train gets stalled on your way to work, or your usual coffee place runs out of almond milk, it's annoying and stressful because you have to go out of your way to accommodate any changes that interruption causes. Moving is essentially the same thing, but magnified.
You might not be able to plan for every little hiccup that can happen, but Dr. Amsellem says that you can mange your stress by making lists for all the things you need to do and pack, checking your list off in increments, and not saving everything for the last minute (or trying not to).
And while you're at it, give yourself a chance to say goodbye to the old place. After all, it's the end of an era, and even if the place wasn't perfect, you might have mixed-emotions about leaving.
"If you’re moving out of your neighborhood, make the time to have a farewell dinner at your favorite place," Dr. Amsellem says. "Maybe have a farewell dinner at your place with your roommate just to give a bit of closure to that time in your life together, so that your last time there isn’t just you frantically shoving things into a box."
And in those moments when you're feeling overwhelmed (because let's face it, you will), remember that you're making this move for a reason — hopefully, a good one.
"Transitions are inherently stressful, but we do grow through change," Dr. Amsellem says. "If we never challenged ourselves in any way and never did anything different, we [wouldn't] grow."
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